Unilab Center for Health Policy to help bridge healthcare system gaps in PH

Unilab Foundation (ULF) launched the Unilab Center for Health Policy (UCHP), a venue for stakeholders to examine health policy issues.

“UCHP is intended to provide a platform for policy makers, the private sector, implementors and other concerned stakeholders—at the national and local levels—to discuss, distill and dissect health policy issues.,” Unilab Foundation President Clinton Campos Hess said.

With a fragmented healthcare landscape, the Philippines grapples with obstacles that hinder the upliftment of marginalized Filipinos. Out-of-pocket expenses, uneven distribution of human resources, and limited access are among the persistent challenges that the newly established UCHP aims to tackle.

Recognizing the monumental task of achieving universal health care, UCHP emphasizes a collective responsibility shared by the government and private sectors.

“UCHP does not presume that it can help solve all the issues at hand. It is a modest attempt to bring together like-minded individuals and institutions desirous of nourishing our nation’s health care system. It is premised on government and the private sector working together,” Campos Hess explained.

“UCHP seeks to spawn ideas anchored on research and grounded on experience. Such an approach will help forge the appropriate interventions to the exigent health concerns of access, equity, quality, service delivery, UHC implementation, and the interphase of health with technology.” he added.

UCHP has an Advisory Council, which will aid in crafting policy agendas and in ensuring the meticulous oversight of project implementation. It is chaired by former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Enrique T. Ona and includes Philippine Medical Association President Dr. Maria Minerva P. Calimag, former University of the Philippines School of Economics Dean Dr. Orville Jose C. Solon, former DOH Undersecretary Dr. Leopoldo J. Vega, and Ateneo De Manila School of Medicine and Public Health Founding Associate Dean Dr. Maria Eufemia C. Yap.

UCHP has identified four priority areas that will become the focus of its initial policy recommendations.

The first one revolves around the direction of the National Health Accounts from 1991 to 2022, wherein the UCHP embarks on a sonorous analysis of the data, offering a time-series impact analysis of the reforms. An ongoing project, the initial report will be presented in May 2024.

UCHP has also started the ball rolling on its study on the governance of provider payment mechanisms. As complex as the transition to a “performance-driven, prospective system” is as mandated by the UHC law, the UCHP proposes to examine global best practices to craft a governance framework tailored to the Philippines. The initial report, also slated for May  2024, aims to enhance the credibility, transparency, and accountability of provider payments.

The third priority area is the initiative to develop a manual of operations in implementing the Philippine Health Insurance Corporations’s (PhilHealth) Outpatient Benefit Package called Konsulta. The manual aims to fill the gaps in Konsulta’s expansion, covering accreditation, organizational aspects, membership, benefits availment, financial management, reporting, and monitoring. The first draft of the manual is expected to be finished at end of May 2024. This is particularly important as the Department of Health (DOH) and PhilHealth continue to expand the benefits being covered by Konsulta. The manual will be of particular use to health care providers, LGUs and covered members.

Lastly, UCHP aims to create a framework for a referral system in the over 6,000 geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) in the Philippines, where access to health services is a persistent challenge. The UCHP’s fourth project aims to come up with models for residents of a GIDA access to a continuum of care on a sustainable basis. By assessing both the demand and supply sides, the UCHP endeavors to develop a comprehensive framework that considers inputs, processes, and minimum standards. With a draft manual due by May 2024, the study aspires to be a blueprint for improving healthcare accessibility in marginalized areas.

“Together, let us pursue our shared vision where health is not determined by income level, geographic location or social status. Together, let us work to shape a healthier and more equitable future,” Campos Hess added.

UCHP was formally launched on March 20 at The Peninsula Manila witnessed by officials of the DOH, PhilHealth, non-government organizations such as USAID and JICA, civil society, public and private hospitals, members of the Diplomatic Corp, development partners like the Asian Development Bank, health care industry organizations, local government executives, patient groups, academe and health providers.

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